Home > Richard Hergest (~1754-1791)

Richard Hergest (~1754-1791)

 

Richard Hergest, who sailed on two of Cook’s voyages, was born about 1754, the older son of Jeremiah and Margaret Hergest of Whitechapel in East London.  Jeremiah was a linen draper.  The Hergest family most probably originated in Herefordshire, very close to the Welsh border where there is still a small village near Kington called Hergest.  Jeremiah was probably the son of Richard and Frances Hergest, born at Kington in 1724.

 

Jeremiah and several of his brothers appear to have moved to London.  A Jeremiah Hergest married a Margaret Smith in London on 20 June 1753, and three male Hergests also married in London over the next few years.  Jeremiah and Margaret Hergest had at least two sons and the younger Jeremiah, was baptised at St Mary’s, Whitechapel.

 

Richard Hergest went to sea on HMS Augusta. He joined as an ordinary seaman and spent three months before becoming a midshipman, in which capacity he spent another three months.  He then transferred to Marlborough as an Able Seaman (AB) for seven months.

 

Hergest joined Cook’s second voyage on Adventure on 16 December 1771 from Marlborough.  He sailed as an AB until 2 January 1773, when he became a midshipman.  He kept a journal from 13 July 1772 to 12 July 1774 (ADM 51/4522/13).  Hergest does not feature in the official record of the voyage.  After his return to Britain, he saw service on Ramillies and Dublin.

 

Hergest then signed on for Cook’s Third Voyage.  This time he sailed on Resolution.  He joined the ship as an AB on 10 February 1776.  The ship’s muster records him as 22 years old from London.  He became a midshipman on 12 March and remained so until 1 November 1776.  He then became an AB again until 24 August 1779 when he reverted to being a midshipman.  Hergest was strongly affected by Cook’s death and attempted to take some revenge by shooting Koa, the priest, but his pistol misfired.  After the voyage, Hergest became a lieutenant in December 1780.

 

I have found a marriage allegation for a Richard Hergest and Elizabeth Reah dated 1 April 1789, but cannot tell if it is for our Richard Hergest. 

 

In 1790, Hergest was given command of Daedalus, a storeship, with instructions to meet George Vancouver’s expedition at Nootka Sound.  It was not a command Hergest was completely happy about, and he brooded throughout the voyage.  The ship belonged to Alexander Davison, a shipping agent; later he became Horatio Nelson’s agent.  The ship was therefore not part of the Royal Navy and Hergest might have had problems with the crew and discipline.  William Gooch went on the ship to join Vancouver’s expedition as its astronomer.  Daedalus sailed into the Pacific via Cape Horn and reached what Hergest thought was an undiscovered group of islands in March 1792.  He was not to know that Joseph Ingraham, an American, and Etienne Marchand, a Frenchman, had both “discovered” the same islands in the previous year.  They were the Northern Marquesas, which Vancouver would later name the Hergest Islands in his honour.  Hergest named three of the islands after other midshipmen from the Third Voyage: Riou, Trevenen and Roberts.  None of the names stuck.

 

Daedalus sailed on to Hawai’i.  Hergest and Gooch, apparently in an effort to sort out some problems existing between them, went ashore on 12 May 1792 at Waimea on O‘ahu, despite advice from some Hawaiians on board not to do so.  The pair and a seaman called Manuel were attacked and killed.  Their attackers were not ordinary villagers, but warriors, called pahupu, each of them having one side of his body tattooed black from head to toe.

 

Thomas New, the ship’s master, sailed immediately for Nootka on the American coast to inform George Vancouver. Vancouver, who had sailed on two of Cook’s voyages with Hergest and counted him as a close friend was very affected by the news:

as Mr Hergest had, for many years, been my most intimate friend; he was a most valuable character; and I had ever esteemed him as a man not less deserving my respect than intitled to my regard.

 

Joseph Whidbey, master of the Discovery under Vancouver, wrote:

Lieut Hargest… I have lost an intimate friend.

 

The news of Hergest’s death took some time to reach Britain and Jeremiah Hergest, his brother was writing to Joseph Banks in June 1793 still seeking details of what had happened. The letter also carries Banks’s draft scrawl which is illegible in part, especially toward the end.

June 10 [1793]
Sir
The subject of the present will I trust excuse the liberty I am taking in addressing a letter to Sir Joseph Banks. Could I have procured any friend who  was honoured Sir with your acquaintance it would have relieved me from the  necessity of adopting the present mode to perouse some information which I  understand Sir you are in possession of by means of Mr Menzies, respecting  the melancholy fate and subsequent steps taken by Captain Vancouver to  investigate and punish the natives of Wooaho who were immediately concerned  in the death of Lieut. Hergest of the Daedalus store ship, who was my only  brother. What intelligence I have hitherto received though leaving no room to hope I still could not shut out a variety of the most distressing reflections and looked with painful anxiety to hear which information Captain Vancouver might obtain of the affair having confidence the force with him would enable him to receive every satisfaction the subject would admit. This I find has been done and I have heard some general but no particular account.

 

I hope what I have said Sir will plead my apology for addressing you, and obtain me through your kindness and condescension the last melancholy information I look for concerning the unfortunate end of so nearly related and valuable to me.

 

I am Sir
With due deference and respect
Your most humble servant
Jeremiah Hergest

No 113 Cheapside

 

Banks’s scribbled reply:

Sir
As there is certainly no doubt your unfortunate brother was massacred by the Indians at the same time when Mr Gooch suffered the same fate.
I am glad to hear your mind is made up to abandon all hopes xxxx that melancholy subject, & I conclude that the particulars which were transmitted home more than a year ago I xxxx to send you that Mr Menzies transmitted to me on the melancholy subject but shall be happy to show it to you if wish to see it & will call at Soho Square xxxx 11 o’clock Thursday when I shall be at home.

 

The particulars seemed on the 29th of April last are as follows

Put copy Mr Menzies’s letter

 

This is all I know in xxxx I except that I conclude you are already in possession of. I sincerely condole with you in the xxx of xxxxx xxx xxx xxx xxxx of characters

I am

 

I’d be interested to hear from anyone with more information about Richard Hergest and his family.

John Robson

Lieutenant's certificate for Richard Hergest.

In pursuance of the directions of the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, signified to us by Mr. Stephen's letter of the 14 October 1780, We have examined Mr. Richard Hergest who by certificate appears to be more than twenty six years of age, and find he has gone to sea more than nine years in the Ships and qualities under-mentioned (viz)

Ship

Quality

Years

Months

Weeks

Days

Augusta

Ordinary

0

3

3

1

Augusta

Midshipman

0

3

0

4

Marlborough

Able seaman

0

7

0

5

Adventure

Able seaman

1

0

2

3

Adventure

Midshipman

1

7

3

2

Ramillies

Able seaman

0

2

1

0

Dublin

Able seaman

0

3

1

2

Dublin

Midshipman

0

6

1

0

Dublin

Midshipman

0

0

3

2

Resolution sloop

Able seaman

0

0

2

2

Resolution sloop

Midshipman

0

8

1

3

Resolution sloop

Able seaman

2

10

2

2

Resolution sloop

Midshipman

1

1

1

3

 

Total

9

4

0

1

Journals to be dispensed with by their Lordships Order of the 17 October 1780.  He produceth Certificates from Captains Evans, Bickerton, Furneaux & Gore of his diligence and sobriety: He can splice, knot, reef a sail, work a ship in sailing, shift his tides, keep a reckoning of a ship's way by plain sailing and Mercator; observe by sun or star, and find variation of the compass, and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman.  Dated at the Navy Office the 19 October 1780.  Charles Middleton, Edward LeCras, Captain North.


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 30, volume 32, number 2 (2009).

 

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Hergest was appointed as naval agent to the Daedalus, as John Robson says a merchant ship hired by the government. Greg Dening has discussed the difficulties Hergest faced as a naval officer commanding a merchant ship whose crew was not subject to naval discipline, and whose master, Thomas New, owed responsibility to the commercial interests of the ship’s owner, Alexander Davison (Greg Dening, The Death of William Gooch: A History's Anthropology, Melbourne University Press, 1995, pp.59-60).
By Robert King on 9/19/2016 2:15:07 AM Like:0 DisLike:0

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